How to fight white supremacy and the fascist danger

BY:Joelle Fishman| September 19, 2017
How to fight white supremacy and the fascist danger


The horrors of Charlottesville have brought into sharp relief the question of how to effectively resist the provocations of emboldened white supremacist, Nazi and anti-immigrant organizations.

What kind of resistance will inspire the largest cross-section of people to engage? What tactics will create the majority needed to win?

The context is the incitement to racism and bigotry by this president and his administration which has emboldened hate groups and domestic terrorism.

Days after Charlottesville, Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio who had lost his election and was found guilty of racial profiling. This pardon gives a further green light to terrorizing immigrant families and communities of color.

The KKK, white supremacist and nazi groups, armed with military style weapons, are the shock troops meant to distract and divide the people while civil rights, voting rights,  labor rights, and all democratic protections are dismantled.

The tactic of these groups is to descend on communities, especially progressive and college communities, instigate a fight, create turmoil, get headlines, chill the political atmosphere and open the way for repressive measures. They use these events to train what they hope will be an organized mass fascist movement.

The question we are addressing is what are the tactics that will give clear leadership and engage the vast majority to defend democratic rights and justice?

Fighting on their false terms, as for example the black bloc has done, essentially gives in to the provocation and plays into the supremacists’ hands. How?

  • It allows media to take the focus off the supremacists;
  • It allows agent provocateurs an easy entry;
  • It scares some people away who would otherwise participate and confuses others.
  • And it does not show confidence in the working class to resist.

History shows that provocations can be overcome with large-scale tactics that bring people together in unity across race, gender and religious lines.

Racism, white supremacy and bigotry hurts everyone. They are not simply personal attitudes but are systemic, built into our nation’s capitalist structure, from slavery onward.

These poisons have been used to rationalize slavery, segregation, terror, voter suppression, mass incarceration, deportation and war.  They have been the central tool for dividing working-class people and weakening their ability to win racial and economic equality, workers’ rights, social justice and peace.

There are ways to reject the Klan provocation and at the same time take a clear stand against racism and for unity.

One model is what the civil rights movement did through civil disobedience in the 1960s.  Under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. they took the moral high ground and won the conscience of the nation to oppose the terror of Jim Crow segregation.  This resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and much more all of which is in danger of being dismantled today.

Today, the fact that millions of people are ready to act was shown in the outpouring of protests against white supremacy and domestic terrorism after Charlottesville. Across the country (and around the world) peaceful vigils, public expressions by elected officials, clergy, unions and community organizations took place in rural towns and large cities. In Boston 40,000 marched peacefully. The  small supremacist “free speech” gathering ended early and canceled several planned rallies around the country. In San Francisco the longshore workers have voted to stop work and participate in rallies if white supremacists come to town.

I participated in two national discussions initiated by different national groups after Charlottesville.

In the first discussion two options were referenced as having been considered in Charlottesville to protest the “Unite the Right” rallies. One was confronting the fascist elements directly including possible physical force.  The other was choosing to ignore the supremacists in hopes they would go away.  Framed that way, the first option was chosen. But it is a false choice. There are other significant options and ways to resist and reject the supremacists and challenge systemic racism.

As Communists our starting point has to be building the largest possible united front. Our broad coalition approach was actually developed in the struggle against fascism. In any given situation we search for tactics that can bring whole communities together in opposition to the provocations and ideology of the Klan and Nazi elements. We search for tactics that are not limited to marching in the moment but that also strengthen on-going organizing and voter participation.

A couple of examples:

One example is in a rural community in the Mid West.  When white supremacists announced they would hold a rally, union folks decided that they wanted to do more than march.  They wanted to build a lasting opposition to racism and hate.  So they asked their elected officials, their clergy and educators to issue strong statements and hold discussions with their constituencies ahead of time.  So far the supremacist rally has been postponed.

Another example is in Maine where lots of confederate flags showed up on trucks.  Our comrades report, “All the confederate flags are down due to persuasion. The people who had the flags up now agree to keep them off their trucks.”  The persuasion included a bit of history about Maine’s important role in winning the Civil War against the treasonist Confederacy. After Charlottesville 65 people turned out to two vigils in this tiny community.

I live in New Haven Connecticut. We have a progressive African American woman mayor and a board of alders that includes many union leaders who have been elected from their wards. One day a white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, showed up.  Word had gotten out and some groups headed down with paint guns and other things.  The Proud Boys only had a couple people to hear a speaker who never showed whose talk was called “resist socialism.”  A melee ensued and the Proud Boys got the headlines they wanted.

Comrade Jahmal Henderson and I had a letter published in the local paper in the name of our party club. Quoting the last several sentences:

“New Haven is a target because this movement is organizing and educating people and bringing them into action against racism and hate and for equality.

“Hate groups use fear of dreaming big to keep people from searching for basic solutions. The theme “resist socialism” is a fear tactic to stop people from imagining how our country could be organized for the benefit of everyone, not just the billionaires.

“Martin Luther King warned of the “urgency of now.”  Today’s urgency is to resist the Trump extremist agenda, to dream big and build an expansive and inclusive movement beyond capitalism, racism and exploitation to achieve basic human needs for all.”

The letter was well received.

After Charlottesville the Mayor held a press conference with her staff, the police chief, clergy and community reaffirming that New Haven will remain a welcoming city, a sanctuary city and a city that rejects white supremacy and hate.

As Communists, we search for tactics that can win concrete policies to undo structural and institutional racism in every aspect of life.

In North Carolina, Rev William Barber said: “Pull down the statutes, not just the statues!”  One way to resist is to participate with the poor peoples campaign he is organizing, picking up where Martin Luther King Jr left off when he was murdered.

The second discussion I attended opened with remarks by Wes Bellamy the vice mayor of Charlottesville.  He cautioned that it is not correct to say that Charlottesville was chosen for the Unite the Right rally only because of the move to take down the statute of Robert E. Lee.  A Reparations bill unanimously passed city council allocating $4 million for parks, schools and jobs in the African American community.  So this contributed to the targeting of Charlottesville.  And Charlottesville is in Virginia where an important governor’s race is underway which is coveted by the Republicans and an important test coming as the  2018 election approaches.

The choice of Charlottesville as a target was a warning to other municipalities: “Don’t dare to be a welcoming city, a sanctuary city, a city that practices equity.”

More and more mayors are responding to grassroots organizing and publicly refusing to be intimidated or bullied.

At the labor council hall in New Haven Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he is spending time campaigning with Mayor Toni Harp because he believes that if she is re-elected with a landslide it will send a signal to the nation that the people support the city’s sanctuary status and rejection of white supremacy.

The elections this year, and especially the 2018 elections are critical to give a resounding defeat to the move toward fascism. A focal point of resistance is organizing that voter turnout starting now.

What tactics, what kind of resistance, is needed to defeat white supremacy and fascism and advance democratic rights and justice?

As Communists, we are guided by:

  • What will reach out to the most people?
  • What will influence the most people and build unity?
  • What will organize the most people?


Tactics to successfully resist the provocations of emboldened white supremacist, nazi and anti-immigrant organizations have to be determined with an eye to what will engage millions of people for the long haul. There are no short cuts to changing the political balance of forces. Creating strong union-community organization takes day to day hard work at the grass roots. Lessons learned from these struggles can produce new leaders grounded in social justice and working class unity who can run for office and win. We resist so that we can move forward.

Photo: Creative Commons 3.0



    Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.



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